Liberating People is a Priority to Jesus: Luke 13: 10 - 17

The chains that bind you are a priority to Jesus. Your freedom from enslavement is more important to Him than your pet’s welfare. Your freedom from the chains than bind you today are his main concern. You might be more obsessed about the welfare of stray dogs or feral cats in town than about your own enslavements or the chains that bind other people. But Jesus sees the issue differently. Your condition of enslavement or addiction takes priority. If you doubt my claim, I hope you will consider the following account from the Third Gospel.  

The President[1] of the Synagogue protested Jesus’ act of healing a disfigured[2] woman on a Sabbath Day.  His protest was designed to turn the gathered crowd against Jesus. Bad move on his part. His oblique complaint:

“There are six days on which work should be done.  So come and be healed on those days and not on the Sabbath Day.”  Luke 13:14.

So, what crime had Jesus committed? Jesus had the gall to unlock the demonic chains[3] that kept a woman from straightening up completely,[4] a condition she suffered for 18 long years--almost two decades.  Jesus’ failure, according to the President, was unlocking her chains on a Sabbath Day. Unlocking chains was labor, prohibited on a Sabbath Day; so implied the President.  

 Jesus Offends the Religious Leader

What was Jesus thinking?  He offended[5] the distinguished leader of a synagogue. Perhaps it was an honest mistake; did Jesus forget it was the Sabbath? In fact, Jesus’ action was not an accident or a brief memory slip-up. His Sabbath-day healing was calculated and intentional. The offense was delivered on purpose. God’s Word was being misused by religious leaders and enslaved people were ignored as a result. That kind of abuse called for a rebuke.

The synagogue President should have thought twice about taking on Jesus, the master of Israel’s Scripture and divine interpreter of its Law. His oblique protest backfired big-time.

Religious Actors

The conduct of the President and his supporters, Jesus rejoined, demonstrated that they—Bible readers--treated animals better than their own people, earning from Jesus the label “religious actors.”[6]  They were quite ready to liberate (untie) their donkeys and oxen on the Sabbath day, leading them to quench their thirst, without staging a protest march.  But they had the moxy to complain when a woman—a daughter of Abraham--was liberated from Satan’s tortuous grip on the same day.

Quenching the thirst of their animals was more important to these Bible reading folk than liberating people from demonic slavery. They showed compassion to a donkey but were callous to the miserable condition of a suffering woman. How can animals fare better than people in a Bible reading environment? This Bible-reading group needed offending.

People are a Priority to Jesus

Jesus’ rebuke disclosed their religious hypocrisy (Lk 13:15). A daughter of Abraham who had suffered 18 longs years under the disfiguring power of Satan deserved to be liberated on a Sabbath Day far more than a donkey (Lk 13:15-16)!

The donkey was tied up with a rope and led from the stall to water, but the woman, daughter of the esteemed father of the Jewish race, had been tethered by Satan in a handicapped condition for almost two decades; Jesus had set her free from her long ordeal. Her condition was far more serious than being tied up to a stall. How can an animal be treated with more concern on a sacred day than a human being? Their protests were hypocritical and covered up the neglect of God’s needy people.

People and their needy conditions are a priority to Jesus. So, be consistent and align your priorities to fit God’s list of what is most important. First, free up the woman from her demonic chains so she can stand up straight in the synagogue, and then, untie the donkey so it can drink (1 Cor 9:8-10). People’s conditions of slavery must come first on the agenda; animals come second.

Put to Shame

Jesus’ logic of human value trumping animal comfort is indisputable. His charges of abuse of the Sabbath regulations and lack of compassion to the needy struck home!  His adversaries were put to shame.  (Luke 13:17)  They are guilty as charged and they know it!

“When He had said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame…” (κατησκύνοντο; Lk 13:17)

Luke depicts Jesus as the Lord (ό κύριος; Lk 13:15), the designated name for the Lord God of Israel in both the Old & New Testaments (Deut. 6:1-5; Luke 1:16, 17, 25, 32, 43, 47, etc.). Jesus’ action of shaming his opponents echoes the same actions by the God of Israel:

“All those who oppose Him shall be put to shame (άίσχύνθήσονται) and disgraced.”  Isa. 45:16.

Oppose the liberating work of people by the God of Israel and you run the risk of being put to shame.  Oppose the liberating work of people by Jesus, the living embodiment of Israel’s God, and you also run the risk of being put to shame.  Put the welfare of animals over the welfare of people and you—whether you are a President or pauper--earn from Jesus the distinguished title, “hypocrite, a religious actor, who plays to the gallery.”

But, we can avoid shame and Jesus’ rebuke. Acknowledge Jesus as Lord of the Sabbath, the Lord God of Israel, and align yourself with his interpretation of the priority of people over animals, and you can both rejoice and experience the wonderful acts of liberation he performs (Luke 13:17b). 

 Your Condition is a Priority to Jesus

Your enslaved condition is a priority to him. He wants to liberate you from your chains, whether they are demonic, fleshly, or due to the suffocating choke of sin; and he can unlock them any day of the week. Donkeys and dogs need water. But you need freedom from the spiritual handicaps that disfigure you. Your freedom from Satan’s grip is Jesus’ priority. I hope you’ll consider Luke’s story as one with which you must identify.

Seek Jesus Today

Why not seek Jesus out today, regardless of what day it is on the calendar. You are a priority to him, far more important than the stray dogs or cats skulking through your neighborhood. He can loosen your chains so you can stand up straight, worship him, and allow others to rejoice.

“… all of the crowd rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.” Lk 13:17

 This was Wesley’s testimony in poetry:[7]

“Long my imprisoned spirit lay

fast-bound in sin and nature’s night;

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,

I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free;

I rose, went forth and followed thee.”



[1] Άρχισυναγωγος; this person was responsible for the order and worship in the synagogue; he is the right one to speak out.

[2] The woman was bent over and could not straighten up; this affliction was caused by a spirit of divination; yet, despite her handicapped and embarrassing condition, she was present in worship. Luke’s view of women elevates their faithfulness, sacrifice, and devotion to Jesus. They constitute models of ideal discipleship in the Third Gospel.

[3] Literally, “having a spirit of sickness,” an Aramaism, meaning a spirit of divination, a demon that causes physical infirmity. The Lukan text is silent about how this demonic spirit invaded the body/spine of this handicapped and nameless woman. Demons are opportunistic, relentlessly searching for and taking advantage of windows opened up to them into the human body. They are spirits without bodies; they are obsessed with finding a human body through which their eyes can see, their mouths can speak, and their minds can think. Demons can impact dreams, health, attitudes, and emotions. Demons prey on unsuspecting, naïve people, religious or not, who open up the windows of their minds and bodies to them through appetites and hungers for fantasy; mark it down--show an interest in the fantasy world of witchcraft, wizards, sorcery, magic, spells, apparitions, astrology, occultic games, and other dark realms, crossing over a forbidden boundary, and the spirits will find open windows into such a person. The greater the interest the deeper the demons can invade your sacred space. Instead of following James’ exhortation, “resist the devil…” and Paul’s exhortation—“put on the whole armor of God” the naïve are throwing open the door of their minds and bodies to such spirits. The symptoms of such are predisposition to sinful anger (Eph 4:26), tantrums, violence, rebellion {“rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft”}, depression (King Saul), bitter jealousy, selfishness (James 4: 13-16) and physical and psychological infirmities (Mark 5). This woman likely suffered long-term demonic influence because of crossing over forbidden boundaries in her past. King Saul crossed a forbidden boundary by consulting a medium in order to bring Samuel the prophet up from Sheol (an apparition). His visit—crossing over into forbidden territory--constituted his coup de grace. God put him to death the next day (1 Sam 28-31).

[4] Literally, Luke writes, “she was made straight,” a passive verb, άνωρθώθη, showing that it was God working through Jesus to bring about the healing.

[5] The President is angry at Jesus. Luke uses the word άνανακτών, “indignant, intense displeasure” to describe his response to Jesus’ actions. Jesus made him angry.

[6] The word “hypocrite” literally means “to speak from under” and was the 1st century word for stage actors, men and women who wore masks to play roles in a drama, roles such as the villain or the hero. To be a hypocrite in Jesus mind is to use the Bible or religion as a cover up, a mask to hide the real person underneath. The hypocrisy in this account was to use the Law of Moses to restrict people or ignore needy people but then to bypass the same law when it came to the treatment of animals. Treating animals better than needy people—in the name of God—is using the Bible or religion as a mask, hypocrisy, religious phony baloney.

[7] Verse three to Charles Wesley’s incomparable hymn, And Can It Be.

Tim Cole